Friday, December 14, 2012 has ended, the sun has risen and a new day begun. It’s now almost twenty-four hours since a gunman walked into a school in Newtown, Connecticut, and slaughtered twenty-six human beings; one being his mother, the majority children - babies! He is identified as Adam Lanza. Of course the media tells of his sordid past – giving him a character description as quiet, troubled, and awkward – and I am to feel for him? My plans for the day are to attend a Christmas Craft Show run by the Cheerleaders of Archbishop Ryan, purchase these year’s Christmas tree, and go to a Holiday party a friend is sponsoring and has planned since the summer. My plans are to attempt to make this Christmas as merry as possible for my daughters. It’s hard for me not to think of my Tim’s death, and how much I miss him. It is also at the same time hard not think of the pain and anguish the parents and families in Newtown are facing. I am sure there was at least one parent who had made plans similar to mine and now having to plan a funeral and keep from falling into the abyss of grief.
The majority of the victims of this maniac were children; twenty children torn from their parents and families, robbed of their futures as well as the very breath they breathed. The ripple effect had begun as people question their faith in God or whatever higher spiritual being they believe. People question the usefulness of Law Enforcement, the so-called safety nets involving Mental Health and Social Worker programs and systems. Questions are being asked from low decibel whispers to shouting out to the Heavens “Why?” Candle vigils form, people gather in their places of worship seeking solace or answers, police chiefs hold press conferences to explain the time-line of events and give the death-toll. The animal who did this crime – this massacre - escaped justice by committing suicide. I could be safe to say it was not from regret or guilt. It was escape.
But that is not all I am thinking about. My thoughts are with the twenty children and their parents. I don’t want these parents in this club for which I am a member. I paid my membership with my most precious blood – the loss of a child. I can respect their anger, but I will not fully understand it because my loss is so different from theirs. My son, Timmy, was taken from me, his mother, and siblings because of a tragic accident. It was an accident that affected not only our family but the kids from Archbishop Ryan and other surrounding Catholic high schools, the kids who went to grade school with him, the cops who work with me, and all the way up to the Cardinal’s office. I’m thinking of my own grief; I am wondering how I would have dealt with today’s tragedy if it was the mechanism that lead me to become a member of this club. This club I wish on no parent.
My son’s death cost me to lose nearly five months before I was strong enough to return to work. Nearly five months sitting on the sofa, sometimes crying, sometimes staring like a zombie at the television, sometimes screaming into the phone because someone tells me about the date of my son’s death is noticed on a dart board or how much pain he would suffered was avoided because he died, or how my son suddenly became an omnipotent protector of his family. As well-meaning as it may have been, it was stupid to have been said. I had said many times before it was the kids who saved me – why them? It was because they, through the simplicity of a hug and kiss, sharing a memory, or creating a T-shirt honoring his memory, expressed they were in pain and their world had changed as well. They were thrust into seeing they will not live forever and life is precious as it is fragile.
Only a few months ago, a man walked into a movie theatre in Aurora Colorado, and shot an automatic assault rifle into an audience who were attending The Dark Knight Rises. Within a few days, the news released a photograph of James Holmes, the 24 year-old man with his freakish orange tinted/dyed hair. His get-away was thought out to blend in with arriving SWAT teams and simply walk away. That ghoulish and tragic night, Holmes wounded fifty-eight people and killed twelve.
For what reason had this man committed this insane crime?
We may never know because his defense counsel will blame a diet of Twinkies, bed-wetting, and social awkwardness. Psychiatrists could paint a portrait of Holmes being a victim. Who knows what will become of this animal.
As with the offender in Connecticut, we will truly never know or understand. He took his reasons with him. The FBI will classify Adam Lanza, with Holmes, the Columbine shooters, and others into a growing profile of the Lone Wolf shooter – white male, early to mid-twenties, socially awkward, perhaps bullied, parents either divorced, separated, or dead, and doted on him and the triggering may possible be a figment of his imagination – much as Scrooge’s attempt to debunk Marely’s ghost as an “…undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.”
In October, 2010, my family went pumpkin hunting – a quest to find the ideal pumpkins which would be transformed into Jack O’Lanterns. Our sojourn took us to Lancaster County home of the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch, about an hour’s drive from our home. There amongst the farms, horse-drawn buggies, bakeries claiming the world’s best shoo-fly pie, was once a single room school-house in a town known as Nickels Mines.
Four years before, on October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV entered the school and shot ten people – killing five girls ages six to thirteen. Roberts committed suicide, the school was torn down, and the Amish asked that no evil be thought of the man who killed their children because he will have to face “a just God”. A new school was raised nearby and was purposely built to be as different as the original. I, like many people, wondered how the Amish could think this way until it was explained to me. The Amish believe forgoing vengeance didn’t undo the tragedy or pardon the crime – it was step one to a more hopeful future. I admired their strength and perseverance. Maybe it is because the Amish haven’t forgotten Matthew 7:1-2? In Matthew, Christ taught “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I’m not a religious man; but not being religious does not mean being without Faith or being without a belief system. I live in a world, like you, were life is motivated, at times, by vengeance and avarice. I can go to any book in the Bible and find a passage to reflect this tragedy much as I can use a passage from a Hemingway novel or a song in the Top Ten to give credence to the emotions I am attempting to convey. I can peek under the robe worn by the Ghost of Christmas Present and see the demons bound to him – Want and Ignorance. The spirit warns, "Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased." Of the warning of Ignorance, Facebook pages are popping up calling for the draw and quartering of Adam Lanza’s remains to calling him a hero.
Yes from seeing that, Dickens may certainly be correct and the writing will not be erased; the Amish I hope are correct and Lanza like Roberts is now facing a just God.
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Beautiful sentiments and writing Martin, again.